Sunday, 8 March 2009

First Friday

There is a bunch of modern-jivers who also do tango. On the first Friday of the month they take over the downstairs room at Negracha (which has good DJing and quality 'nuevo' music these days) with a mutual pledge to make all comers welcome. Someone brings cake. You'll find the cake - and a welcoming committee of some combination of Ken, Chris, David and friends - at the table near the door.

They have a misspelled facebook group called Let's Go to Nagracha's. But you don't have to be on Facething to get cake or welcome. However, if you are, I think there might be a little discount or something if you say the right thing at the door. I'm not sure about that.

I went this Friday. The people are lovely, and it's good to get out of my comfort zone dancewise. I'd forgotten just how much more physically demanding that style of dancing is; I slept like a log.

Some other milongas have their own Facebook groups - it's not a bad idea, but I think the welcoming committee is more important.

Edit: I missed my own point. I should have added - I don't care for this style of music, which mostly doesn't make me want to dance, although as long as it's good quality stuff I can always find something to like and express if I'm dancing with someone who likes it. Some of it's quite beautiful. I particularly don't like that it forces me to shout, and stops me from hearing, if I want to sit down and chat to a few friends - which is an important part of the whole thing for me. I'm not, when it comes down to it, interested at all in the dramatic style of dance that makes sense with this music, although again it can be fun from time to time if it's led well. It is fun, but it's not like dancing tango. (I still love you, Ghost and DavidBailey. Anyway, both of you can dance tango.)

What I'm saying is, I really wish there was a welcoming committee for the real thing, and I would like some of my other commenters to think a bit about how that might be done.

I don't wish this for myself, as nothing ever stopped me going to milongas alone as a beginner and getting - with few exceptions - a dance or two to start me off. Standing at the edge of the dance floor, smiling around, and fidgeting in time with the music worked for me, roughly 100% of the time. Taking the class, or sitting down and chatting in a friendly way to the other women, also both worked well. But for me, a large part of the point of the activity was to overcome shyness. That was essentially what I considered myself there to do. I am also very bloody-minded, and I utterly refused to be defeated by the fuckwit at my first milonga who chose to lecture me until I wept. On the other hand, I shall never forget the other dancer who showed me what a vals should feel like, made me think that I could dance nicely, danced the whole tanda with ease and grace and a smile on his face, and said "step over" when I didn't know what a foot in the way meant and I looked at him with hedgehog eyes ¿¿like this??.

But it doesn't seem quite right to me that such a high level of persistence, determination, and luck should be a prerequisite to learning to dance tango. Call me a Tango Socialist. But people are not going to get this from their teachers, and I'm not sure organisers can offer it directly. Welcoming new people is a job to be shared among the older siblings, and David, Chris, and Ken are doing a fine thing.


Anonymous said...

No, the cake is the most important thing ;)

Anonymous said...

Yup, it needs to be chocolate!

I was trying to work out the maths - 24 people came, so say 12 women who each got 12 tandas...12 x say 10 mins is 2 hours pretty much dancing guaranteed. Doesn't even take into acount dancing with everyone else or having more than one tanda or resting to eat cake.

Certainly different from the way it was a year ago...

Sorry I missed you - I didn't get there till later on.

Anonymous said...

"Later on" being 1am - you're turning Argentinian before our very eyes Ghost...

But yes, it can take a couple of hours just to dance with everyone from the group, even if you just ration neo-tandas to 2 tracks.

I imagine there'll be a lot more next month - wouldn't be surprised with 35-40. It's a monster.

Anonymous said...

Yup t'was only 11pm in Argentina (which admittedly was still late...)

Hmmm maybe two cakes might be required?

The Welcoming Committe does make a big difference though. It's very easy to feel that tango venues are unwelcome, whereas LGTN does seems to have overcome this :clap:

Anonymous said...

Re: The EDIT


But yeah, if others want to create Welcoming Comittees, I think it would be a good thing.

The whole "how to get dances" thing is all a bit nebulous and undefined, and I agree makes it unnecessarily harder.

There's a line I always liked from Beverly Hills 90210

"He's had a hard life and there is no reason for any of you to make it harder."

Learning tango is hard enough!

Anonymous said...

Blimey, that's an edit and a half... :)

Yes, I agree that the tango scene in general is utterly, utterly clueless in the whole "welcoming newbies" department. Because most of us First-Friday-ers come from Ceroc, we are used to a certain level of support for the newbies - for example, Taxi dancers.

I don't know why Tango organisers are so hopeless. Possibly they've not thought of it, or they don't think it's important. Or, possibly, there's an unconscious desire to make tango unwelcoming...

Anonymous said...

I love you guys, I was there with my friend Angela who introduced me to LGTN. Ken and everyone else was so generous and welcoming that my faith in ever dancing at Negs was restored. Ok there were a few missed leads on my part (I'm working on that) but most of the leaders were light years ahead of me anyway and knew a few tricks I haven't come across before. But I had a great time despite having pulled a muscle too early on in the evening (thanks to resin on the floor,too much traction). But thanks really to everybody for having been so welcoming,it's a little too daunting upstairs sometimes and the people vibes are often forbidding.Pity I travel so much, but I shall endeavour to come to the next LGTN night when I'm in town.Oh by the way I'm also in the Cake club. What a brilliant idea, next step would be to convince Negs to open up the coffee/tea machine. By the way, it's Peggy.

Arlene said...

Darn, I wish I knew about this before as I have been going to the Casbah on Fridays and going to Negracha to Tango after or wanting to Tango afterwards, but not feeling like driving again at 11pm.
Hospitality at a Milonga is pretty non-existant at the London venues, but Nikki from the Wine Bar and Crypt does more than most. It can be difficult if nigh impossible at a larger venue. No different to Ceroc if you don't do the classes. I suppose I am used to going it alone and finding my own way. The smaller the venue, the friendlier it seems to be regardless of the dancing style. I look forward to trying out 'The First Friday' next month, and the cake.
I went to Negracha on Friday for the first time in months and initially regretted my decision as there was no one there (I arrived at 10:45). It got busier at 11:30 and then I had a great time.

Anonymous said...

The crypt has definitely got a good rep for friendliness - compare and contrast to Corrientes, which... hasn't.

I think it's a combination of the layout (easy to mingle without marching across the room), the people (slightly older and more relaxed crowd) and of course the free booze :)

Negracha's is definitely _not_ welcoming - we only chose it as our base because of the two rooms, one of which was playing neotango.

Anonymous said...

I tried to go to the new Friday Welsh Centre Milonga, and I have to say that they are friendlier than other milongas in London. It's a bit of an early start (7pm) and an early end (10.30pm, sometimes 11pm), but in terms of atmosphere I have to say it's good, and with good music.

Corrientes is not so bad, afterall.

And I went to Negracha the last time about 3 or 4 months ago, after getting bored with the usual classic tracks upstairs, the usual non-tango-yes-jazz/salsa/undanceable tracks downstairs, the usual VERY late start, the usual VERY little friendliness.

Anonymous said...

"I tried to go to the new Friday Welsh Centre Milonga."
- Is there a website for these guys? I'm half-thinking of popping along tomorrow night.

"Corrientes is not so bad, afterall."
- A lot of this is subjective, of course. For some reason, I don't usually find Negracha's unfriendly, although I know that - objectively - it is...

On Negracha's, the music downstairs is much better now than it was a few months ago - and it's actually getting very busy downstairs now, which reflects that I think.

Anonymous said...

@David Bailey:
"Is there a website for these guys? I'm half-thinking of popping along tomorrow night."

I know they have a Facebook group and they post on TangoUK, but I guess they are building up a website as well (I looked in google, and I didn't find anything)... Well... Not that a website is strictly necessary... Although it is useful...